Song of the Day #5,340: ‘Under Pressure’ – Queen and David Bowie (Aftersun Version)

[WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for the movie Aftersun. If you plan to see the movie, I recommend doing so before reading this.]

As with several of the movies I’ve featured this week, I will be writing more about this one when I get to my top ten list, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But given that the scene in question comes in the film’s very final moments, it’s difficult to share it without exploring the movie’s plot and themes.

Aftersun is about a lot of things but primarily it concerns a young woman (Sophie), recently a mother, remembering a trip she took with her father (Calum) when she was 11 years old. The film largely takes place during that trip but occasionally we get glimpses of Sophie as an adult.

Writer/director Charlotte Wells also intersperses scenes of a hectic nightclub, strobe lights flashing, where the adult Sophie struggles to find her father (still the age he was when she was 11). That metaphorical space represents the darkness he succumbed to shortly after the trip, perhaps by taking his own life.

Today’s musical moment is the film’s penultimate scene. On the last night of the trip, Calum invites Sophie to join him on the dance floor. She reluctantly joins. Wells then cuts to the nightclub scene, where Sophie finally reaches her father and yells at him before embracing him. She is struggling to understand and forgive him for leaving her.

And then we return to the memory, where an 11-year-old Sophie embraces her father without realizing this is the last dance they’ll ever share.

The song they dance to is ‘Under Pressure’ by Queen and David Bowie, but Wells and her collaborators have remixed it, dropping out everything but the vocals at one point and blending in a cello from the film’s score. It turns an effective needle drop into something more complex and haunting.

[Intro: Freddie Mercury]
Mmm num ba de
Dum bum ba be
Doo buh dum ba beh beh

[Verse 1: David Bowie & Freddie Mercury]
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

[Bridge: Freddie Mercury]
Um ba ba be
Um ba ba be
De day da
Ee day da- that’s okay

[Chorus: David Bowie & Freddie Mercury]
It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about
Watching some good friends screaming, “Let me out!”
Pray tomorrow gets me higher
Pressure on people, people on streets

[Verse 2: David Bowie & Freddie Mercury]
Day day de mm hm
Da da da ba ba
Chipping around, kick my brains around the floor
These are the days it never rains but it pours
Ee do ba be
Ee da ba ba ba
Um bo bo
Be lap
People on streets
Ee da de da de
People on streets
Ee da de da de da de da

[Chorus: David Bowie & Freddie Mercury]
It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about
Watching some good friends screaming, ‘Let me out’
Pray tomorrow gets me higher, high
Pressure on people, people on streets

[Bridge: David Bowie & Freddie Mercury]
Turned away from it all like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn
Why, why, why?
Love, love, love, love, love
Insanity laughs under pressure we’re breaking

[Verse 3: Freddie Mercury]
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love
Give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?

[Outro: David Bowie]
Because love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And love (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,340: ‘Under Pressure’ – Queen and David Bowie (Aftersun Version)

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    There was a version of this song floating around the internet several years ago in which just the vocal track for this song was isolated so as to highlight Mercury’s and Bowie’s extraordinary voices. Perhaps that track inspired the remix for this powerful scene in the movie.

    Here is a link to that vocals only version:

  2. willedare says:

    Thanks for sharing this new mix of a favorite song (and the a cappella version Dana shared, too!) I am impressed that the copyright holders allowed the filmmakers to mix their own version…

  3. Peg says:

    A lovely scene but I find the flashing strobe lights somewhat disconcerting. Would love to just watch the two of them without the distraction of blinking lights

  4. Maddie says:

    This is a really special film with such great performances – I agree that the strobe lights were a little tricky for me (as well as some longer artsy linger shots that I think could have been cut down a smidge). Because of those factors – and coming into this one with very high expectations – it didn’t quite make it to a year end favorite for me. However, the musical moments in this are highlights of 2022.

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